The hyperbole about Buddy Rich can get pretty deep. He's commonly referred to as the best drummer ever. This is much like granting Sinatra King of Crooners status - for many this brash supremism is based on a standard of style and sensibility we don't find so pretty. It's like saying the steamroller is the greatest wheeled vehicle of all time. That's true maybe, if what you value most is the ability to flatten things. Buddy Rich was a steamroller and is reputed to have rolled over more than a couple of his bandmembers, but that's neither here nor there. If you're looking for a visual document of this locomotive of a drummer in his late prime, The Lost Tapes should do you nicely.
The film is taken from a single set at a single gig in 1985, late in Rich's career, when he was touring but not recording. Rich and band start with a bang, cranking through two up-tempo numbers, then delivering a less than sedate handling of "'Round Midnight . This was the second set and Rich sometimes looks just slightly winded in the short breaks between the first tunes. Later he seems to have gotten a second wind and is seen in close-up doing a silly dance on his stool. Once the tunes are launched, he never flags and his bombastic, propulsive abilities are in fine fettle. The band is probably filled with first rate jazz soloists, but the lion's share of solo time goes to the lions: Rich and his right hand man, tenorist Steve Marcus. These two show how unhesitant, straight ahead blowing, calculated for maximum wows, ought to be done.
Among the DVD's extras are commentary from the man himself, members of his family and others, including drummer Dave Weckl. There are also solo highlights, one of which could be used as exhibit A for the "greatest drummer legal team.
Personnel: Buddy Rich: drums, leader; Steve Marcus: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Mark Pinto, Bob Bowlby: alto saxophone; Brian Sjoerdinga: tenor saxophone, flute; Jay Craig: baritone saxophone; Scott Bliege, Mike Davis: trombone; James Martin: bass trombone; Paul Phillips, Eric Miyashiro, Michael Lewis, Joe Kaminski: trumpet; Bill Cunliffe: piano; Dave Carpenter: electric bass.
Tracks: Mexicali Nose; Willowcrest; 'Round Midnight; Cotton Tail; New Blues; Tee Bag; The Red Snapper; West Side Story (Overture and Medley).
Program Notes: Directed by Scott Ross; Approximate running time 115 minutes.
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